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Monday, October 15, 2012
The Michigan 10: Illinois

By Michael Rothstein

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Illinois might be one of the worst teams in the Big Ten this season, and it didn’t help on Saturday when starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was knocked out of the game. But Michigan still did exactly what it needed to do: Win, and win big.

The Wolverines shut out the Illini 45-0 and were led again by Jake Ryan, who is becoming a star this season after being a player in the right position a lot last season.

Due to the defensive dominance, the majority of this week’s Michigan 10 focuses on that side of the ball:

1. LB Jake Ryan (2): The redshirt sophomore continues to be Michigan’s top defender, tying a career high with 11 tackles and also contributing 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on a play when he missed the quarterback, fell, got up and still hit Riley O’Toole and made him lose the ball. On a defense that looks like it might be the Big Ten’s best, he is its top player. Ryan is now Michigan’s leading tackler, too, with 42.

2. QB Denard Robinson (1): The senior became one of eight quarterbacks in FBS history to throw for 40 touchdowns and rush for 40 touchdowns in his career and now has 49 passing scores and 41 rushing ones. He also surpassed the 10,000-yard barrier in total offense and continues to be the catalyst of Michigan’s offense.

3. LB Desmond Morgan (3): Morgan holds on to his spot after a five-tackle performance where he was around the ball a bunch more, too. Now wearing the Gerald Ford No. 48, he also is continuing to prove he is a worthy, instinctual and balanced linebacker to play opposite Ryan on the other side.

4. LB Kenny Demens (NR): Any discussion of Michigan’s defense starts with the linebackers. Ryan is having the breakout season, Morgan has been steady, and Demens, in the middle, is starting to improve rapidly in his final season. He had eight tackles, an interception and a tackle for loss against Illinois.

5.S Thomas Gordon (6): Michigan’s second-leading tackler didn’t have to do much on Saturday. He had a season-low two tackles, but no member of the secondary was asked to do a lot against Illinois.

6. DE Craig Roh (7): The senior had three tackles for loss and a half-sack Saturday and leads Michigan’s defensive linemen in tackles, with 19, and is second to Ryan on the team in sacks, with two. He is quickly growing into his position, his third in four seasons.

7. WR Jeremy Gallon (NR): Gallon took a screen pass 71 yards on the game’s opening drive Saturday and made continuous smart decisions as Michigan’s punt returner. Gallon now leads Michigan in catches (15), yards (287) and is second to Drew Dileo in yards per catch with 19.1.

8. P Will Hagerup (8): Another week, another light day of work for Hagerup, who only had one punt Saturday, but it went 43 yards. Hagerup, who doesn’t punt enough to qualify for the official NCAA statistics sheet, is averaging 48.7 yards per boot.

9. S Jordan Kovacs (9): Another ho-hum day for Michigan’s defensive captain. He had only two tackles and has had three combined in the past two games, the least productive back-to-back games for him since the San Diego State and Minnesota games a season ago, when he also had a combined three tackles.

10. RB Thomas Rawls (NR): The sophomore has not seen a ton of action recently, but he ran for 90 yards on nine carries on Saturday -- some early in the game and others late, including a 63-yard touchdown run with the game long decided. Rawls has looked powerful when he has run the ball, although he likely hasn’t done enough yet to supplant Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Dropped out: WR Devin Gardner (4); CB Raymon Taylor (5); KR Dennis Norfleet (10)

On the cusp: Quinton Washington, Taylor, Gardner, Devin Funchess, Taylor Lewan